From CNet/Future of Life Institute: Autonomous weapons use Artificial Intelligence to select and engage targets without human intervention. Now, a think tank backed by scientist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, among others, offers a graphic warning against machines that decide whom to kill. This fictional video underscores how seriously these experts view the issue.
From BBC: Cape Town is in the unenviable situation of being the first major city in the modern era to face the threat of running out of drinking water. But Cape Town is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are the 11 other cities worldwide that are most likely to run out of water.
“Is western civilisation on the brink of collapse?” the lead article in this week’s New Scientist asks. It’s a good question, but it seems too narrow. These pathologies are not confined to “the west”. The rise of demagoguery (and the pursuit of simplistic solutions to complex problems) is everywhere apparent. Environmental breakdown is accelerating worldwide.
We know that economies need to grow, or they collapse. The wage disparity that high-wage countries have been experiencing in recent years is evidence that the world economy is already reaching energy limits. There are no longer enough jobs that pay well to go around. Any drop in energy supply will likely worsen the situation.
Richard Heinberg writes: Many problems are converging at once because society is a complex system, and the challenges we have been discussing are aspects of a systemic crisis. A useful way to frame an integrated understanding of the 21st century survival challenge is this: we humans have overshot Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for our species.
India’s income inequality in 2017 may be worse than what it was during the British Raj. According to a new paper titled ‘Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj?’ penned by renowned economists Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel, India witnessed a sharp rise in the incomes of top 1 per cent post 1980s.
Here’s how you make a dystopia: Convince people that when disaster strikes, their neighbors are their enemies, not mutual saviors and responsibilities. The belief that when the lights go out, your neighbors will come over with a shotgun isn’t just a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a weaponized narrative. It is what turns mere crises into catastrophes.
Peter Buffet writes: Reconsider. Everything. Is it feeding fear? Is it feeding off trauma? Is it creating more suffering? Most of our institutions will crumble under the weight of these questions. And when we have reconsidered the lives we have built, how will we live? Look to the people that are weathering the early storms.
From The Hindu: From a severely critical stand against Aadhaar in 2014, the Modi-led BJP in power has made a sharp U-turn to bulldoze its way into having every Indian scanned, tagged and labelled. As the Supreme Court begins hearing of petitions that challenge Aadhaar, a timeline of the country’s chequered date with the project.
Louis Proyect writes: As a rentier state, Iran’s economy was based on handouts rather than the production of manufactured goods. Cheap oil and subsidies made the massive use of pumps feasible just as was the case in neighbouring Syria. Groundwater extraction nearly quadrupled between the 1970s and 2000 while the number of wells rose five-fold.
From WSWS/Automatic Earth: Bitcoin has been hailed as the currency of the future; and dismissed as a bubble at best, or a tool for organised crime at worst. But one thing is clear; its soaring demand is a direct result of a broken global financial system trusted by nobody and on the verge of breakdown.
No doubt, capitalism has largely enabled the huge growth of human numbers in the last two hundred years. But human population growth has been occurring even in pre-capitalist eras. Parallel to this, also environmental destruction has been occurring and growing in these eras. It is not good to tell our readers only half the truth.
Displacing pastoralists, displacing smallholder farmers, arresting and charging them as terrorists if they protest–and the land is given away to foreign investors to grow what? Sugar and cotton. Imagine trucks full of food aid coming into Ethiopia, while trucks full of cotton and sugar are leaving the country. Hunger in Africa is a political problem.
From The Guardian: A series of fast-moving global megatrends, spurred by trillion-dollar investments, indicates that humanity might be able to avert the worst impacts of global warming. From those already at full steam, including renewable energy, to those just emerging, such as plant-based alternatives to meat, global trends show that greenhouse-gas emissions can be halted.
When a group of us visited Boatkhali Kadambini Primary School four years ago, classes were on in full swing. This primary school is at one edge of Sagar island in the Sunderbans. That entire stretch, including the Boatkhali school, has now been swallowed up by the sea, including the house in which we had stayed.
With the national energy policy about to be finalised, a recent lecture by Dr. Arvind Subramanian, India’s chief economic advisor, revealed the government’s thinking on the question of coal vis-a-vis renewable energy. This rejoinder by an energy expert flags crucial issues and suggests alternatives that are vastly more healthier for the country and the planet.
Richard Smith writes: The fundamental contradiction with capitalism is that maximizing profit and saving the planet are inherently in conflict and cannot be systematically aligned even if, occasionally they coincide for a moment. But saving the world requires that the pursuit of profits be systematically subordinated to ecological concerns— and this no corporation can do.
From National Geographic: Already battered by decades of shoddy environmental policies, which had hobbled agriculture and impoverished its inhabitants, villages across rural Iraq and Syria were in no state to navigate the extra challenges of climate change. When ISIS came along, many of them quickly emerged as some of the deep-pocketed jihadists’ foremost recruiting grounds.
Recently, a powerful feature by The Guardian reported on the US’ accelerating farmer suicide crisis, part of a global farmer suicide crisis, which most acutely manifests in India. Layton Ehmke, farmer-turned-journalist, writes on how there’s no way to make a living growing food in America, and how poverty and shame are driving some to suicide.
From Ecosocialist Horizons: The First Ecosocialist International is not just another gathering, nor another reunion of intellectuals to define ecosocialism. Neither is it a single organization with a seal, or with the omnipresent danger of becoming a bureaucracy. It’s simply a common program of struggle, with moments of encounter and exchange, which anyone may join.